A new exhibit, ‘Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,’ based at the Museum of the City Of New York, displays images, videos and artefacts including instruments, shoes and costumes from music greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and Sammy Davis Jr. who performed at the Apollo Theatre, over the past seventy-five years.
The fedora that accentuated Michael’s first moonwalk, pint-sized tap shoes that belonged to Sammy Davis Jr. and the score to ‘Black and Tan,’ in Duke Ellington’s hand are all on display in the centre of the exhibition, encircled by a timeline of the theatre, accentuated by videos and photographs.
The exhibit, held from Feb 8th to May 1st, also explores Harlem’s history as a hub of United States black culture and the theatre’s role in hosting memorial services for James Brown, and a public tribute to Michael.
Michael first performed at ‘Amateur Night’ at age nine with his brothers. Their group, the ‘Jackson 5,’ won the competition in 1969, when Michael was eleven years old, performing Smokey Robinson’s, ‘Who’s Lovin’ You?’
“When I think of a soundtrack for the second half of the twentieth century, it’s the music that was launched by the Apollo,” Susan Henshaw Jones, director of the Museum of the City of New York, said in a statement.
The exhibit is a joint effort by the Apollo theatre and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.
Lonnie Bunch, the Smithsonian’s director said he was ecstatic that so many artefacts were able to be a part of the exhibit, citing a soft spot for Duke Ellington’s score. But Bunch couldn’t help naming the ‘wow’ factor that Michael’s fedora held, saying,
“O.K., that’s pretty cool. If you say to me what says American culture to many people – that hat does.”